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Food Safety Focus (144th Issue, July 2018) – Food Incident Highlight

Fruits Are Healthy, But Contamination With Nipah Virus Can Be Deadly!

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a number of deaths due to Nipah virus (NiV) infection in Kerala State, India. NiV infection is an emerging zoonotic disease (i.e. transmitted from animals to humans) of public health importance in the WHO South-East Asia Region with a high case fatality rate. In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis.

Fruit bats are the natural host for NiV virus. Possible routes of NiV transmission include consumption of fruits partially eaten by the bats, direct contact with infected animals or their contaminated body fluids or tissues, and human-to-human transmission. When travelling to places affected by NiV (e.g. India), consumers are advised to observe good personal hygiene (e.g. wash hands frequently with liquid soap and water). Moreover, avoid drinking raw date palm sap or toddy (i.e. palm wine). Boil freshly collected date palm juice. Wash fruits thoroughly (and peel, if practical) before consumption. Discard fruits with sign of bat bites.